- Signs of untrustworthiness include wishy-washy language, tight-lipped smiles, and unclear expectations for others.
- Experts say it’s pretty easy to lose someone’s trust quickly.
- Here’s what to avoid if you want to earn other people’s trust and respect.
You can lose someone’s trust pretty quickly.
All it takes is a missed deadline, a weird facial expression, or a feeling that you just don’t “get” the person you’re talking to.
Social scientists and other experts have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about all the ways to make people distrust you. We’ve listed seven of the most common below.
You have a big gap between your words and your actions
- Flickr / Funk Dooby
According to the authors, the wider the gap, the less trustworthy you seem.
For example, if you say you’ll turn in a project by Friday, forgetting that you have another big assignment due Thursday, you’ll want to turn in that project by Friday anyway. If you don’t stay accountable, you risk hurting your own reputation.
You’re not clear about your expectations for others
The “Spark” authors say that leaders should communicate to their reports exactly what they want done to establish trustworthiness.
Chances are good,” the authors write, “that someone’s poor performance is a result of something you did not do versus something [your coworker] did do.”
Still, the authors say it’s better to communicate what you want accomplished than how, so as to inspire creative problem-solving.
You display a tight-lipped smile
- De Repente/Shutterstock
A 2016 study published in Proceedings of the 18th ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction found that certain facial expressions are perceived as signs of untrustworthiness – even if they’re not really.
For example, participants in the study – who role-played negotiations in pairs – thought that “controlled smiles” were signs of untrustworthiness, even though they weren’t.
The only behavior that was perceived as a sign of untrustworthiness and really was such a sign? How much someone talked.
You don’t understand what other people value
Counterintelligence agent Robin Dreeke recommends using the “platinum rule” for getting people to trust you. Instead of treating others how you would like to be treated (the “golden rule”), treat them how they would like to be treated.
In other words: Talk in terms of what’s important to them, in a way they can readily understand, and they’ll be more inclined to give you what you want.
You kiss up to management
- Strelka Institute/Flickr
“While this employee may be perfect on paper, there’s just something about them that comes off as disingenuous,” Sandhir said.
He added, “This coworker is extremely polished and will do whatever it takes to move up the corporate ladder, which can ultimately create severe trust issues among team members.”
You use wishy-washy language
- Marco Arment / Flickr
Telling your boss “I believe I did X” is a surefire way to make them trust you less.
It’s an example of the “wishy-washy language” cited by Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” in a previous interview with Business Insider.
Other examples of phrases not to use in conversation with your manager include “I can’t promise this, but…” and “I’ll try.”
You don’t trust other people
Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett spoke to Heidi Grant Halvorson, a professor at Columbia University and the author of “No One Understands You And What To Do About It,” who said that trust is often reciprocal.
If you’re overly guarded, people will act the same around you. Halvorson recommends trusting people with select personal details about your life.
“Far from seeing you negatively, the perceiver is likely to feel that this invitation to intimacy indicates that you are on the same team.”
This kind of gradual self-disclosure is also a great way to make friends.